I'm pretty sure I have an eating disorder, and I'm okay with that. But what am I doing to my mind/body?

This is a very long post, sorry!

I have been dieting on and off since the age of 11. I was always a skinny kid until my family moved when I was 8, and over the next three years became what you would definitely call 'chubby'. To lose weight I started eating a handful of cereal for breakfast, throwing my packed lunch in the bin or giving it to friends (save for whatever piece of fruit was included: usually an orange, apple or banana) and eating a handful of dinner (my parents would always put food on the table and allow us to dish for ourselves, so it was easy to get away with this type of thing. My mum is a serial dieter and only ever eats off a side plate, so she never really seemed to notice...).

Throughout secondary school/college I was usually considered 'slim' or 'skinny' by others, but not always by myself. I would go through periods of anything up to a year where I would be conscious of what I ate and lose a bunch of weight, then start eating 'normally' again and put it back on, and repeat. I had awfully low self esteem and never thought that my face or body were pretty attractive; my legs and arms were too long and skinny, but I had a pudgy tummy with love handles, my boobs were too small, my skin was dry and ugly (I had eczema on my legs, arms, and behind my ears, and psoriasis on my scalp - all of which randomly cleared up on their own by about age 16), my hair was too thick and unruly, I wore glasses, etc. etc.

I had a very difficult family life at this point and would often have emotional binge eating sessions up to 1-2 times per week. I tried to make myself sick after these a few times but could never quite manage it (it's hard!). I tried just putting the food in my mouth, chewing, and then spitting it out. I trawled 'thinspiration' blogs for tips and actively looked for the pro ana/mia ones as they had the best advice from truly skinny girls - although I never aimed to be as skinny as them. Looking back on it now that behavior sounds very much like an eating disorder, but I never saw it that way at the time since I couldn't possibly be anorexic (I could never seem to starve myself for more than half a day), and I definitely wasn't bulimic (I physically couldn't bring myself to be sick, and couldn't get my hands on laxatives) so I just thought of myself as a chubster who, if anything, could DO with developing an eating disorder to lose some weight! It should be noted that throughout this period the biggest I ever got was a UK size 10, weighing 8 1/2 st at 5"4. I imagine that sounds fine, even ideal to most people, but I cannot even describe how DISGUSTING those numbers are to me... I have always (and still do now) felt happiest with the way my body looks when I have been just into the 'underweight' BMI category (between 17-18.5), and felt chubby when in the 'normal' range.

I am now 21, a UK size 6-8, weighing 7 1/2 st at 5"5. I can honestly say that I love my body and think that I am beautiful. My self esteem is at an all-time high and it feels so, so, wonderful. It feels wonderful to walk into Topshop and know that I can pick up whatever I want and look great, it feels wonderful to wear a bikini in public and not be sucking in my tummy, it feels wonderful to know that my measurements (33-23-35) are exactly the same as the current #1 Victoria's Secret model (Candice Swanepoel)... and as horrible as it sounds it feels wonderful that guys ogle me wherever I go and women envy me. I seriously get complimented on my appearance (face and figure), told I should be a model etc. at least once a day, if not several times a day. I get told that I'm 'just so beautiful' by cashiers at the supermarket, taxi drivers, random people in the street. When I walk into a bar or club, men's heads turn and stare, and if I'm in a more relaxed social situation (at a friend's house for example) they always try to sit next to me and talk to me more than any other girl in the room. I'm not trying to sound big headed - this stuff literally happens to me (and gets super awkward when I'm not on my own)! It's a pretty phenomenal turn around from feeling like an ugly duckling for years and years as a teenager, to now being considered the most attractive person in pretty much any room I walk into.

What worries me though is the price of all of this. To maintain my size I have a coffee (normally a cappuccino) everyday for breakfast, another coffee or a small (100g) bowl of fruit and fat free organic yoghurt (1-2 tbsps) for lunch (I try to alternate having a fruit-lunch one day and then a coffee-lunch the next, but often the coffee-lunch days outnumber the fruit days, and then there are some no-lunch days in there as well...), and then a small dinner of lean meat, chicken or fish (about 100g) and vegetables or salad (about 1-1/2 handfuls). I do not eat carbs bar that in my fruit/veg (but I don't eat potatoes!) - no rice, bread, pasta, cereal etc. I also do not have snacks. At the weekend I don't eat all day (just have coffee) and then treat myself to one packet of crisps (my favorite snack!) and actual full size meal in the evening of whatever I want, which will usually involve either going out or ordering a takeaway.

I have a bit of a problem with control however. I often find that because I don't eat very much, when I do eat an actual meal it's very difficult to stop. So when I come home for dinner after work I usually eat and then go straight out again, and then go straight to bed when I come home. At the weekend when I allow myself to eat what ever I want I will usually gain anywhere between 2-3 lbs, which is fine. If I gain 4 lbs I will fast (only drink water and maybe a coffee if I really need it) on the Monday, then weigh myself and assess whether to eat normally (my normally!) the next day. If I gain 5lbs + I will fast for two days. I usually fast for about 3-4 days per month.

I don't count calories but I guess I estimate that I eat about 400-650 a day, maybe (excluding weekends)? I don't exercise very much. I weigh myself at least twice a day, but sometimes this can be up to six times a day. I am ALWAYS cold, often tired, and sometimes feel weak or struggle to concentrate (usually only when fasting though - these feelings get ignored, in any case). I personally feel that no human needs to eat 3 meals a day + snacks (unless you're doing a LOT of exercise), and I think that the RDA of 2000 calories for women is OBSCENE (2000 calories is probably what I eat on a weekend day, and that would entail stuffing my face with things like Dominos pizza?! How you can manage to eat 2000 calories of healthy stuff is beyond me). I also view anything over a size 10 (maaaaybe a size 12 if you're over 5'10 and have a really big bone structure) as fat (I'm not trying to offend anyone here, I'm just explaining my strange little mind).

I am aware that my attitudes towards food and body image are not 'normal', and I'm fine with that. What I'm not fine with though is potentially doing serious, long-term damage to my body. I mean, I don't think I starve myself enough to really... but then maybe I do? And maybe my attitudes towards body image and diet are really harmful and I'm just in denial and shouldn't be okay with them? On the other hand though I have never ever felt so confident and happy within myself - I'll happily take feeling a bit cold/weak/tired some of the time over feeling chubby/ugly all of the time... Is that so wrong? I'm okay, I'm surviving, I lead a generally happy, fulfilling life and I am doing well at my job and at uni. My periods still come round like clockwork every month. I don't have body dysmorphia; I know that I am thin and pretty, and I have no desire to be any thinner or prettier, I just want to stay the way that I am! I've never felt so emotionally and mentally stable in my life (in every area, not just body image/diet) - yet I'm sure any doctor or psychiatrist would tell me that I'm not. I don't really know what to do.

17 Replies

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  • Well, it does sound like an eating disorder. Weighing yourself obsessively will make you unhappy because every time your weight has shifted you feel miserable enough to fast on only water! I think if you want to be truly healthy you need a big attitude change about how important it is to be 'the most beautiful person in the room'. I can understand you enjoy it, but I think you must also understand that the attention you get is superficial- it doesn't have true value. It's like those actresses that decide they want to be 'ugly' for a film so people can actually notice they're talented. Because beauty is bewitching and distracting. The only thing that will really cure you and allow you to be really happy (and hopefully healthy) is a change in perception about beauty- it's a bit of a shallow Hal thing I guess. The problem is your ideas about beauty were formed at a very young age and will be hard to change- it's like trying to stop being racist or something. I think this is something you will need to approach with a reasoned out approach, with someone to help you.

    Just in terms of health risks (forgetting happiness for this)

    -by having very little fibre (just one portion of veg a day is not enough!) you are putting yourself at increased risk of colon cancer

    - if you have little to no fruit you may be missing out on essential vitamins and be putting yourself at risk of infection - some fruits like apples are very low calorie (less than a coffee) and high in fibre- try to eat some of these.

    -by drinking lots of caffeine you are compensating for energy that the body needs with a drug- it works in the short term but as soon as food is available your body will try to make up for the deficit, which is why when you 'do eat an actual meal it's very difficult to stop'. Additionally long term increased caffeine intake has been linked to heart disease, liver disease (which turns you a lovely yellow colour), diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

    - overall on a low calorie diet your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes are laregly reduced and you are likely to live a long life BUT only if your calories are from a highly nutritious, high fibre diet.

    But as you said yourself you'll 'happily take feeling a bit cold/weak/tired some of the time over feeling chubby/ugly all of the time'. And that's completely understandable... Like I said the only way you can stop feeling all the former is by changing your perception of beauty, and the importance of it- and of you being it!

    I'm glad you know your perception of other people being fat at size 12 is abnormal but I hope you will try to change this because they are probably a lot healthier than you if they are doing regular excersizes and eating plenty of veg. And if you feel mentally stable now that's great, but what if you fell and broke your leg, and put on weight because you were immobile? Or had to start taking medications that make you gain weight? I bet you would make yourself ill (by not taking them) rather than gain weight. It's the perfect time, when you feel so stable and happy, to tackle your perception about things, so that when things are not going so well you have another perspective to use.

    Anyway best of luck to you!

  • Whether you have an eating disorder or not is academic, what matters is whether your current diet is healthy. From your description it doesn't sound as if you are eating well enough for your future health. In addition to the ones August_bride has mentioned your bone health may be at risk too - and my experience tells me that poor bone health not a happy way to end up.

    Also I was struck in a documentary how ill and old people of low weight can be when they are not many years than I guess you are. Unless you have endless amounts of money to spend on cosmetic treatments beauty soon fades. People of a normal BMI, assuming the rest of their lifestyle is good, do maintain their good looks for longer.

    I'm glad you felt able to share your story here. I think you are right to be concerned for your future health. Eating regular meals which are healthy is the way to go.

    all the best

  • I would agree with all the above - your current diet sounds extremely restrictive and is certainly not balanced - I would suggest you need to seek professional help - and don't leave it - your body will put up with so much - but with your nutrition as it is you certainly could be at risk. Also your view of your problem and your body need some sorting out - so do seek help from a specialist eating disorders organisation.

  • This is such a sad story. I think you definitley have an eating disorder and although I understand how fantastic it is to look very thin and the buzz it gives you, the longer you stay so underweight the more harm you are doing your body. You may feel absolutley fine some days or most of the time, but having an anorexic BMI means you are very likely making your bones osteoporotic. This means in later years, you can easily break bones - my anorexic friend who had been low weight for over 40 years cracked her rib by coughing and lots of her teeth fell out because they were so weak. You can not judge your state of health by how you feel. The day before I was admittted to hospital for anorexia I was swimming and going for long walks happily tleling myself how well I was and what a wonderful strong body I had - therefore how could I be anorexic? But when the minute I was taken over the hospital door I was put in a wheelchair and wasn't allowed to even walk anywhere. They did a battery of tests which showed I was medically very ill and that my heart could stop at any moment. I couldn't believe it because I had been feeling fine! The bone scan showed i did have osteoporosis - 18 years despite treatment for my bones, they are still thinner than they should be but I have been told if I got myself up to a healthy weight BEFORE my mid thirties I could have actually reversed the osteoposoris. I really really hope you will consider seeking specialist E.D support. But I would urge the support to be specialist. If you are unsure about whether you need help for your eating problem or don't know quite what to do, then B-eat are very good. Please look after yourself, don't use your Mum's example as how you should eat, it sounds like she also has worrying eating disodered behaviours. These days eveyrwhere you look we get the message 'thin is good but thinner is better'. There is such strong emphasis on cutting obesity that the fact that being very underweight is equally damaging to our health. Sorry, If I've made you feel a bit dsiheartened, I don't want to uspet you and am so glad you are reaching out to try and be well, that is brill. I just want you to realise that eating as you are, is very likely to be harming yourself, both now and potentially in many years to come. Good luck and well done for being brave enough to post! x

  • My advine for you is to look for help NOW, a nutritionist and a therapist. I had and eating disorder myself and I know how dificult is all of this for you, it's like you want that help but you are also very scared...It's normal! I'm also studying Nutrition and Dietetics so I have been myself both on treament with nutritionist and in therapy, actually I did not got the help on "the worst moment" of this, but ofc I've made a lot of progress I guess...I do count calories sometimes, I have catched myself doing it recently, but it's maybe because of I am pretty obsessive, or the ED made me so, and because of my career...I'm currently eating about 900-1200kcals/day, like twice I used in the worst moments...And honestly I would like to be able to eat at least about 1500kcals/day, but sometimos it feels like the ED will never go away from my mind. I do have "normal weight" and I know it, but still want to be skinnier because the ED has made terribly obsessive, and so it happens with everything I do...

    What I want to tell you is that it is posible to control this, you just have to look for help quickly, because the longer you jeep hearing the ED it will be harder to go away from it...Do it for your mental peace and you body, because we do damege our body with this

    Get help, and try baby steps ;)!

  • I agree with the above. I do not know how you are maintaining your current weight but I am sure it cannot last. You also have to think of the health implications that you cannot see - including that of osteoporosis. And I know it has already been said but it is fine and dandy when you're feel ok and functioning normally (this is something I really struggle with) but when you start to feel unwell/lightheaded/or get told you have a health issue because of it...you suddenly feel really stupid that you had, effectively, done this to yourself. Being told I had osteoporosis at a young age really hit me in the stomach and because I cannot see it I sometimes forget.......

    So please do something now!

  • There are a few good sites that have answers for what bulimia does to the body and mind. Check out bulimiainformation.co.uk/ef... for the effects of bulimia and anorexiainformation.co.uk/e... for the effects of anorexia. They are both not for profit sites and have pretty easy to understand and comprehensive information available.

  • Your situation sounds almost identical to my own - I practically could have written it!!!!! I think you have what I call 'the bulimorexic chip' - as in, you're not at a dangerous level of eating disorder but it's lurking and will probably never go away. My body measurements are identical to yours (5'5" and 7-and-a-half stone, UK size 6) and sometimes I weigh less, but I've ALWAYS been a person who puts on weight easily, and I don't do any exercise. With this in mind, I really think you CAN get away with eating far more than you do, and SHOULD, because you're missing vital nutrients. The chicken/lean meat thing sounds okay. Eat practically what you want for breakfast because you burn breakfast calories off much more quickly. Cereal is good, but substantial, wholegrain stuff without too much added sugar, as it can make you crave food more quickly otherwise (add your own sugar or sweetener, but avoid ones that have sugar in already). Fruit and veg is good, but ONLY weigh yourself in the morning when you first get up and before eating or drinking, and after going to the toilet (you can pile on 10lbs easily in a day and, if you eat a lot of fruit and veg, a lot of this will be fluid and acid bloating). Potatoes are good because they're low-fat, high-fibre (with the skins on) and digest quickly. Rice is also good if you don't overdo it (can be filling and make you feel tired). Allow yourself treats, and set yourself days and times when you can, but don't feel you have to starve for X many days per days of face-stuffing; it makes no difference. Just go back to your normal eating habits and any weight you may have 'gained' (which will be temporary and caused by food still in your system) will disappear just as quickly. Drink water and green tea. Get LOTS of milk (don't bother counting calories in skimmed milk; at my lowest and skinniest anorexic moment I was drinking gallons of it and it doesn't put an ounce on your waistline). Be realistic and remember you WILL feel fat and bloated and ugly before a period, you WILL crave chocolate (the body needs it to cope with the stressful event of menstruating, and period weight WILL fall off once it's over). You probably have no idea when you're hungry or full, so work out when you most 'feel like' food - sometimes you might not feel the need for three square meals a day and prefer to graze; maybe you prefer five very small meals a day; listen to your body - or as much as it'll tell you.

    Your age is a factor: the younger we are, the more we crave food even if we're not hungry. At 24 I was unstoppable around any kind of food; I didn't eat until I was full, I ate until I couldn't breathe...then continued. But now at the ancient age of 37, I can take it or leave it, and this has balanced itself out so that when I DO go to a restaurant or crave a bit of chocolate once a week, I don't feel guilty.

    Boredom and loneliness can lead to your craving food; hard to imagine it's possible to be bored with so many things to learn and do out there and so many things you probably WANT to learn and do, but then there's the natural apathy the bulimorexic chip leaves us with, and food is the easiest and most satisfying form of entertainment. I wouldn't mind betting you smoke or chew gum or spend a lot of time Facebooking!!!!!! :-D

    You sound as though you're in a good place in your life at last - uni, work, feeling great in your body - but you don't mention anything about the people in it. Do you have close friends? Do you get enough company when you think you need it? Do you get hugs when you crave them? Do people let you talk and do they keep your attention when they talk? Satisfaction and fulfilment (which doesn't necessarily mean feeling you've done well in an exam - I mean, more like enjoying pleasurable sensations and great company - even curling up with a cat (in my case. I never think of raiding the fridge when I'm cuddling one of my fluffy crowd) is the key to bulimorexia. It really is. So is love (not necessarily a partner, but love that really fills you - from friends, family or even animals). It really IS no myth that in the absence of all this, we try to fill the gap with food and then feel guilty and starve ourselves.

    Increase your food intake gradually, though: you don't want to frighten yourself, but you CAN get away with eating far more than you do without putting on weight. I've stayed the same weight (sometimes lower) for the last 15 years now. Your body eventually gets used to the weight it's stuck at for years and you don't have to try so hard...

    Many on here argue that you have a 'real problem' about an 'obsessive' desire to be beautiful and admired. Could be. Or it could be that's just you. Believe it or not, some of us DO place huuuuuuuge importance on the way we look. And who DOESN'T love to feel beautiful? It'd be more of a worry if you felt fat or ugly (and an awful lot of women do, actually). At the very least, knowing you're thin and beautiful is one less worry off your mind, isn't it? As in, you don't have to worry you might look fat and ugly. Rather like being rich (that'd be nice) - it's not everything, but if you have more than enough money, it's one less thing to worry about.

    You could suffer horrid bloating, acid, dehydration, tiredness, blood-sugar imbalances, calcium deficiency (nobody wants osteoporosis. It's painful) by only eating fruit and drinking coffee. Have you got a doctor who's understanding enough to refer you just to a dietician? Then you could ask about healthy foods and what's not fattening but is pretty essential.

    Even try Complan if you're desperate (with milk, of course). It's surprisingly satisfying and filling - one for breakfast, one for lunch, and your usual evening meal. It's not a cure-all, but it would give your vitamin intake a boost while you figure it all out, and you'd know it wasn't going to make you put weight on. Don't count the calories or the fat content, it doesn't work like that! Lots of foods that have a high calorie or fat content actually speed up metabolism because of what's in them, which means they help you lose rather than gain weight. You'd terrify yourself looking at the fat content of olive oil, but it's good for digestion and the metabolism and can actually help weight LOSS in moderation!

    I'm no medical expert, but I WAS born with the bulimorexic chip and unable to get any proper help in the late '90s and early '00s when it was at its worst. Now it's under control, doesn't control me and doesn't affect my relationship with food to a great extent, or my health. And yet I still have a figure the same size as yours.

    Good luck! And happy experimenting...it'll come together in the end, I promise. And there's no truth in the rumours that when you pass 30-35 you automatically put on weight. I've had less trouble keeping to the weight I like to be since age 30 than I did at 23 - mainly because your appetite really DOES decrease and so does your food craving as you 'age' (37 isn't old. It's not even adulthood, really. I actually do look the same as I did at 24 - wrinkles and all...)

  • That was legitimately the most triggering thing I have ever read. Thank you for that.

  • Same, I now feel so happy I didnt eat breakfast and its a wholemeal roll and apple for Lunch! Im fat though, 165 cm and 89 Kilos, getting down to 65 kilos though!! :)

  • Your story made me giggle a bit as it sounds identical to me! I may be a bit more extreme than you though, i fast for a full week and do sometimes have bulimic episodes.

    I'm a 6 ft and a bit male weighing about 10 stone. I still think I'm fat but when I see pictures I do thinking I look like a skeleton.... But i like it haha.

    I've had the modelling comments too, i have done modelling, but i think it adds to the obsession to keep looking good, especially when it's your career, as your looks are your work. So i would advice nobody with an eating disorder take on modelling, it made me worse.

    I may pig out eevery now and then. I had TWO takeaways last night (some fried chicken and fries with a burger abd fries) and ate the lot, but people say "don't worry about it, if you ate it all your body must've needed it, you can't gain weight in a day ". But this morning I feel a stone heavier. My friends family and girl friend love to see me getting stuck into a fatty takeaway or big meal as they think I need it, but they don't get the mental repercussions immediately after taking the last bite.

    Also occasionally do the chewing and spitting out. Used to sit with a spit bag next to me and pretend it was my stomach haha.

    As someone who does have bulimic episodes i can agree it is bloody hard. And not good for you at all. My whole body feels in pain the day after due to muscle stretches.

    Nice to know I'm not the only one and yes we definitely do have an eating disorder.

  • Hi. I know this is a little late but I just joined. If people say you're beautiful, you are. Period. They tell you you have a beautiful face don't they? Well then stay with the beautiful face. You don't have to have a beautiful face AND a beautiful figure. You can still have both of them without dieting unhealthily. Eat normally, healthily and exercise regularly. You will be healthy AND beautiful. Nothing is better then that. Wish you get better soon!!!!!

  • I think you should take vitamins it would help with feeling weak or tired other than that I think you're doing great I don't know why I'm even responding to this because I don't think I'm the best person to be giving advice being that I do pretty much the same thing as you and I don't think it's a problem but I do think that being happy with yourself and body is important but then again I'm not happy with myself or body so like I said I don't think I'm not that much but I honestly think you're doing great

  • All i can say to you sweetheart is grow the fuck up! First of all anorexics dont gloat. At the weight you are at you are not severely ill. You are 3 stone heavier than me. Secondly you are bragging about how apparentely pretty you are, model material etc and all the attention you get. I was a dance teacher/ model and chef and believe me with the comments you have posted you sound like you are seeking attention. No one that is anorexic gloats how beautiful they are. You sound like someone i know who was barely 19 yrs old and very immature. By the way your stats make you very pear shaped. I do notice as well tho that there isnt a pic of you anywhere! . Get over yourself and get sorted. Im 4 stone 7, 5 foot 5 . Fucking grow up you bitch

  • My advise sweetheart is to grow up. I do think people on here are very kind but im very confused as to why you constantly say you are beautiful and that everyone tells you several times a day!!!???????? Really????????. I have max 2 months left to live. I was a dancer, model and fashion desighner yet i never once bragged how pretty, thin or clever i was. Get help with how you feel by all means but please bloody grow up. Anorexics do tend to hide and shut themselves away, certainly not brag. Good luck cos your gonna need it.

  • Feeling sad reading you.....very sad...........

  • It sounds for me that you certainly have got an ED. I had almost the same restrictions in the past as you do right now.

    Four years ago I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. It was a truly nightmare. I was hospitalized in Clatterbridge Hospital weighing 4.8 stone(((((....

    It was the most hardest time in my life to start beating my demons and stop controlling everything what i'd been eating.

    To be at size 4-6 for a person who's naturally isn't so thin( having wide bone structure for example) means not having a normal happy life forever.

    I've seen people who have been admitted 4-5 times. They don't live, they just exist.

    Is it what you want?

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